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Monday, April 26, 2010

By the window I sat

I sat last night, in my room, in this women’s hostel and I was looking out through the dirty, barricaded windows. I had just spent hours planning lessons for this week and I was knackered. I suddenly thought about how everything around me, feels to be happening to someone else. I thought about this hostel and the randomness of the situation I find myself in. I thought of being the only foreigner and after a 11days I’m still being stared at by some girls who seem to think I’m alien. I thought about how easily I could let this get to me and make me feel like an outsider but felt so strong that it doesn’t get me down. I then thought of the language barrier and how most women don’t dare speak to me, because they either can’t or seem to think I’m something unapproachable - when all I do is walk around and greet everyone and smile, being as open as I can be, regardless if I get a reaction or not. But then I thought of my sweet 25-year old roommate, Litty, who is the bubbliest girl in this building and how happy I am with her company. I also thought of the way I’m always called “ma’am” both in school and in the hostel and how I haven‘t responded to “Niamh“, in nearly 2 weeks.

I was sitting, still by the window, gazing at the men I could see in the distance selling the tropical and colourful fruit, under their wooden huts seeming to have not a worry in the world and embracing the laziness of the Sunday afternoon and I thought about how different my life has become and how much I’d love to sit and chat freely with somebody who can understand my every word, with somebody who isn’t linked to the school or with somebody who doesn’t see me as a person to look up to, or a person who is overloaded with money, or a person to have more respect for than other people they meet. I’m just like them, but that’s not how they see me. Both in school and in the hostel. “Please do not see me as anything different!” That’s all I want to say. But of course they do.

So sometimes I miss having chats and a “good-oul-laugh”. That’s also a reason why I can loose myself in this experience. When a person doesn’t express themselves in all the different mannerisms they usually would, things can feel different. It’s like missing a few little pieces of yourself that would otherwise fill you with so much joy. It’s been 4 weeks nearly, since having nice flowing conversations with someone I class as a friend and who understands my speaking, on all levels, which was sweet Jayanthi in Chennai. But it’s fine because every situation we find ourselves in and every feeling that comes along with the present situation is ALWAYS only temporary. This makes me appreciate the aloneness I can feel, once I’ve brought my energy into the classroom, once the lessons are over and once the next class is prepared. Then everything really is fine.

By the window I continued to sit - so much to see!

I was still sitting, looking out of the window and the Indian Summer rain started to fall. It falls daily here in Kerala now and it’s so refreshing in the evenings; cooling down the hot afternoons that reach 40degrees. Then there was a thunderstorm and the fork lightening was amazing; the sky was pink through the massive coconut trees that surround the hostel. I was still thinking and feeling like this wasn’t me. I was looking down at myself, in this town of Kayamkulam and saw someone passing through, someone so lucky and so in the right place, at this moment in time.

I thought of the teaching, which has been so amazing. The kids are fantastic and they are what I’m here for. I can’t imagine that 2 weeks ago I didn’t even know they existed and now I feel like I‘ve known them before. The workload is a lot, but that’s my own doing. I know that I shouldn’t stress too much or get too caught up in the planning of what I’m teaching, but I can’t help it. I’m so new to this teaching world, that I really must put in the effort to reach my full potential, when I’m in front of the class. But having said that, even without preparation, the teaching is coming naturally and it seems to be effortless. I have only 60 students and wish I had more. I only work half days and the afternoons are free, which I fill with making plans for the following lessons.

The school is small and the head of the school and the other teachers, are amazing. They overwhelm me with hospitality all the time, sometimes to the extent where I feel claustrophobic. They worry for my safety, they want to know my every move, my every meal, my every worry or doubt. They don’t like me walking to school, so I get picked-up. They don’t want me in the afternoon sun, so they buy whatever I need from the shops, just to save my fair skin from the rays, of which they are all envious. It’s all so sweet, but sometimes a bit much. They don’t seem to realize how far from home I am and that I’ve managed to get myself everywhere else safe and sound, without being “mothered” or “pampered” by them. I’ve spoken about this issue with others since being in India, as I’ve experienced it before and they simply say: now that you’re here with us, we must see to it that you’re comfortable and happy. Which I know is amazing and how blessed am I to never be alone, and always to have somebody there for me. So I thank my lucky stars, once again.

Whatever will come of this, I haven’t a notion. All I know that my days at this school are numbered, and that’s why every day is special and to be cherished. The days will unfold, as will this life and soon I’ll know a little more.. Or not.. We just never know..

So what's next?

Finding the balance between being here in this moment and deciding HOW I can keep myself in the position of constantly experiencing more of these amazing moments: This is where I’m at right now after being preoccupied by things I’ve prioritised in my mind (which was “work“ or teaching). How can I enjoy this experience totally and give everything I have to the kids, if I’m focused on what I’m wanting to do afterwards? How be here in amazement and also at the same time, be sure, that my next step will work and that it will keep me going in the direction I want? Yes, I’ve already found the answer: it’s balance. But someone can never be sure what‘s right, no matter how much focus is put on figuring out what will come of a certain decision. Trying to predict the future, is impossible. So instead of trying to create images in the mind of how life will unfold, wouldn’t it be so much kinder to the soul to act without thinking ahead? But that’s the thing: we DO need some kind of plan. Maybe I should call it “approach” instead of “plan”? (The word “plan” makes my throat and chest feel tight!) I just always wonder: how far ahead should we think? How much should we leave to the last minute? How much should we go with the flow? To what extent in life, can the approach of “going with the flow” work, if we want to sustain the particular life that we want for ourselves?

This is my problem. For months I’ve been going with the flow. I’ve been making last minute decisions and taking rash actions. And now suddenly I’m needing to plan the next 3 or 4 months and it feels like the biggest thing in the world. It’s only a short space in time, but it could lead me in so many directions. The paths I could take are numerous. But then again, I don’t want all the different paths life offers. The path I’m currently on is the one I want to follow and so I will. And therefore no matter where the next months lead me, I know what I need and want and will achieve from all that I’m doing. And if all of this makes me happy, then I know how to keep it because I have all that I need to keep it. It’s so simple.

But sometimes there’s this voice inside my head, persuading me, that in 3 months time, everything will end. Life will end - this is how I used to think and these thoughts would set me up for a downfall. But not anymore! I can be the drama queen for a few paragraphs on this post and that’s fine (it needs to be done), as long as the drama is only short-lived!

And, hurray! It’s so short-lived because - as I said in my previous post - I’ve started to feel like this is the start of something new. I feel like a door has opened for me or a door has opened from within me and I’m so able and willing and actually already AM in the midst of embracing so much more of myself and the world. I haven’t actually realized until now, but this is what’s happening.. So why was I thinking this teaching experience was passing me by, when I’m getting so much “newness” from it? Because it’s been overwhelming and everything has taken me by such surprise (and this, in turn, has led me to feel distracted when it comes to making the plans for the next months). And being overwhelmed often makes us feel like this is either too good, too random, too unsustainable or too fragile to be true or to hold on to. But nothing will ever let me loose all that I’ve attained, all that I have and all that is me.

I’m sorry to disappoint but the answer to the title of this post: “so what’s next?”, you didn’t find here today. That may have misled you and all of my reflecting and contemplating of this afternoon. But either thank you for reading and if answers do come, you’ll be the first to know.

One year later

A year later, since leaving Ireland - It’s hard to believe. I got on a plane and flew to Australia on the 24th of April last year, without any definite plans as to how long I would be travelling for or what I was exactly going to do. All I knew back then was that I had to start travelling and Australia was the place.

How strange it is to think that in a year so much has changed. I think back to my first month in Oz and I follow the path I took and see all the different chapters of my travels that led me to each new experience. Most times, I don’t feel like I experienced everything. With each step, I can see the change in me, in some minor way - and I wasn’t always moving forward in all directions in life, but moving forward in a certain aspect that was needed at that moment in time - be it for relationships, friendships, finances or health. Thinking back to both Ireland and Australia, feels like a lifetime ago. I feel like I’ve aged so much in this one year but it’s like I’m a newer and fresher me too. How strange.

So one year on. And have I got plans to return home? Many have been asking and I haven’t been giving any straight answers. I don‘t like to say things and not follow them through. That just makes people disappointed and it‘s giving false hope. That’s why I have been vague. Another reason is because I don’t know anything for sure just yet either. I feel, if I’m totally honest, like I’m only just starting something (this is actually a very recent feeling I’ve been having). I don’t feel like this is the end, just because it’s been a year. I feel it’s only the beginning of something but I don’t know of what. But I don’t need to know..

It’s also nearly 3 months since leaving Oz and arriving in India. I have 3 months left on my tourist visa. I’m being faced with reality at the moment and the reality is that decisions need to be made if I want to stay or go. So many options and too many things I feel I need and want to do. I wait for the answer to come, but the sky won’t provide me with it, because the sky is literally the limit so it will never just tell me one thing in particular. Only I can come up with the answer as to how to go about the next months. I can steer it any direction I want. It can be so easy. But getting caught up with other things around me, such as this new teaching experience, gives me the tendency to put on hold the decisions I must make and the actions I must take to materialize all that I can. But life and time waits for nobody and suddenly chances are missed or things that had been within reach, are suddenly gone due to being so preoccupied and distracted.
Hummm... so what to do..

Monday, April 19, 2010

Amazing is all I can say

The following morning, Saturday, which was only my second day here in Kayamkulam, I woke up with a new lease of life. It was incredible. I didn’t want to elope, like I thought I did yesterday. Apart from sensations of still being a little fragile, I felt on top of the world. The thoughts of teaching didn’t make me feel ill, I didn’t stressed about class, I was confident and I was going to do a great job, I was happy to be here, I had my appetite again and the world was amazing. Or to be frank, what I had just been through and gotten over, was amazing. The intensity of the emotions and physical sickness that came out of nowhere, was something I haven’t experienced in more than a year. It came so abruptly, but also left so suddenly. The power of the mind. Once again I have learnt and felt just how fragile a body can be and just precious health is. These are things I know so well and have been faced with more, on a much deeper level, but it’s easy to forget in the midst of the fast world in which we want to take a part of. Sickness and health are all created by the mind and are a manifestation of the thoughts we’re having at the moment we attract that which is not meant to be in our bodies. How our bodies cope with it is a result of our mental state of mind. I definitely picked-up a virus. The time when I picked it up, will be unknown, but the time-period over which it happened was when I was pushing myself, I wasn’t taking care and I wasn’t nourishing myself to the extents I should have been. I was trying to take more from myself than I was giving to myself. It’s opened my eyes in many different ways. Something that came to me and took a hold of me for only 24 hours has given me an intense but amazing lesson.

Every single thing that I was able to do yesterday and even today and still tomorrow I’m grateful for. I got so bad on Friday, I felt I’d never be able to do the smallest little thing ever again, such as send a text message. The smallest little thing was the biggest deal and all I’ve been wanting to do since leaving Ireland is embrace the whole world! What a contrast, what a wake-up call. Going from not being able to send a text on Friday to being able to do it all on Saturday; from one extreme to the other. This was unreal. Because Saturday I had my first teaching experience, as an employee, in India; an opportunity that I had made happen! I went to school, I was excited, I was eager. I gave the classes and felt amazing. The teaching was flowing, the kids were amazing, I was alive and well, I didn’t want the classes to end and was so excited at the thoughts of what I could get these kids to achieve and how I would grow and learn from them. The Head of the school was delighted and they have even decided to put the teaching-assistants in my class so as to learn from me. Wouw.. It was crazy, it was amazing and I was over the moon!

What an episode this was. It’s all so great though. Yesterday and today, I’ve been taking more time to get my total physical strength back. Tomorrow the new week starts. I’ve got students to teach, English to spread and love to share! I’m making peace with the place I’m staying at. I have to. I don’t want to focus on the things that aren’t perfect, but instead I have to accept the good things that are here, such as the friendly women, the safety in numbers, the fan on the ceiling, the hot water and an “auntie” (this is what we call the woman who runs the hostel) who is being as hospitable as possible. All the other things are just minor details. I have to accept and I will. I’m just happy that I’m able to do this and be in the position I now find myself. Whatever reveals itself over the next weeks, is fine. I will be able for anything!

Hellish me - 2

I was brought to the hostel where I’d be staying. Okay Niamh, all was going to be better soon. I’d have a room and a bed. What I usually do, when going to another form of accommodation is gear myself up for the worst, and everything will be a bonus. Well I wasn’t in the right place, to have this mindset, on this particular day. So of course I was the unhappiest person ever when I saw the room I was going to be staying in, until the end of May. I don’t have my own space, the toilet is manky, the ants are everywhere, there’s no lock on the door, no plugs in the room. But the worst thing at the first sighting of my little piece of “comfort” was the bed: It was just wooden planks! There wasn’t a sheet, pillow, mattress.. Nothing! At that moment all I wanted was to sleep.. But seeing this bed, made me panic. I could not sleep on this bed!! I’m leaving if you don’t sort me out something to cover the wooden-planks! They got me a pillow, and some sheets, when they saw the desperation on my face.. So at least for that I was grateful. When I was alone, I broke down again, and really asked myself: why do I put myself in these situations? What’s all of this in aid of? This is the wrong thing I’m doing, once again! This thing that has gotten inside of me, is a sign saying I’m doing something I shouldn’t and now I must leave! I was distraught.

I went to bed for the whole day. I slept and slept. Got interrupted so many times, by others girls in the hostel just being nosy as to who the new (and only) foreigner is, by the owner trying to get to know me, by the cook trying to figure out what food to prepare for me, by phonecalls from Suresh seeing if I was feeling better. PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE!!!

At this stage I felt I was never ever going to feel normal again. I felt like this was it, this was my life, my body and soul were gone. I felt I’d never get my energy back, my stomach would never settle again and the thoughts of food would never make me feel hungry, ever again. I was expected to teach, the following day. I still had lessons to plan.. Can I do this? Well, between sleeps, I forced down food, I re-hydrated myself, and I mentally told myself I wasn’t going to anything I wasn’t able for. I had to let go of wanting to please them and I realized that this is MY health, MY body and MY life. They can push me into going to work all they like, but if I’m not able, then it’s tough for them! The worst they can do, is tell me not to come back, and I’ll say fine, because the hostel I’m staying at is appalling anyhow! Sorry for that little outburst.. But this instantly helped, the pressure was gone and my body starting working through so many different unpleasant feelings. This virus I had gotten hold of was at it’s peak, but I was banishing it by focusing my energy on my strength. Miraculously I woke up at 2am and everything had cleared. The flu symptoms had gone, my stomach was a ease, my bowels were being friendly to me, my head was at peace and I smiled without even thinking of smiling! It was natural and effortless. Wouw. It was unreal. I was so happy and grateful.

Hellish me - 1

We arrived at the school. I was dreading it. This really was so unlike me: My first day to be the English teacher (not to be in training, as I had been during the other teaching experiences) and this was what was happening! I really couldn’t believe it. There were 70 kids and 10 teachers. There was an opening ceremony we had to attend. We did a group meditation and performed some rituals that are accustomed to the school. Usually this would have excited me. Actually every little detail would usually have excited me; from the village I had entered, the kids I was seeing, to the teachers who welcomed me and the “doors” that were opening up to me. But all I felt was misery. I could hardly smile, speak, walk or engage. So it goes without saying that I definitely wasn’t able to concentrate, to focus, to feel free, to see this amazement and to meditate. It was so painful. At that moment, all the kids were so peaceful, they were meditating, as were the teachers, as was Suresh, who was also guiding the meditation. I would have given anything to have experienced that with the whole group. All I felt instead, was that my body had been taken over by something. It felt to be possessed. It was like something had entered me. I was no longer myself. There was definitely something wrong, physically and emotionally.

I then had to get up in front of everybody and introduce myself. I couldn’t believe it. Usually I would have jumped at the chance. But I was hardly able to say 2 words without bursting into tears. How would I get through a “speech” I hadn’t prepared, in the state I was in? Wouw man.. How intense this was! But somehow I did it. I looked like death, and my voice was weak, but I spoke without crying and they welcomed me with open arms. How grateful I was, or when I look back it now, I am. Then, however, I was still wanting to run and hide and cry.. How nice that would have been. But I couldn’t. I had to keep myself together. I had a meeting to attend with the headmistress, with Suresh and with the assistants. They obviously wanted my ideas, my input, my views on how to approach the method of teaching. Oh no! I was hardly able to say where I was from without breaking down. We sat together and I wasn’t going to pretend I was fine, when I was only hanging on by the skin of my teeth. I told the teachers I wasn’t well, which led to a series of events: I broke down (again) in tears, spent ages in the bathroom trying to pull myself together, went back to the office and continued to despair, was forced by Suresh to befriend the students and have a short introduction lesson, was still very emotional, felt I really couldn’t do this, felt like a loser for letting everyone down and felt physically sick at the thought of being pushed so much into doing something I obviously wasn’t able to do!

Something from somewhere inside made me stand up, wipe my face, put on a smile and meet the kids. And I’m so glad I did. They were amazing, gorgeous, happy, smiling and so fascinated to see me. I only spent a short while with them as I was starting to talk in riddles, I was repeating things and saying things they would never understand. The headmistress came to take me away, telling the kids that “ma'am” isn’t well, that she needs rest and will be back tomorrow to take the class. Thank god for that saving grace..

Something strange

Sunday morning - The past week can either be classed as heavenly or hellish. Both. I had to go through “hell” to be able to experience “heaven” once again. I arrived in Cochin on Tuesday morning. I was happy, I was excited and I finally felt like I was on the right road, for now. The ease started to set in at the thoughts of soon having a job, soon having a focus for at least a month and soon having a “permanent” place to stay. The thoughts of having everything organized for me once more and the assurance that I’d have native people to support me and look out for me, was making me feel so comfortable.

I had to get to a particular school on Tuesday morning. It wasn’t the school where I’d be working, but it was of the same founder, a spiritual Guru by the name of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. He is of the “Art of Living Foundation” (which you could probably “google“ to find out more info) - it’s a spiritual organization, who not only have schools throughout the whole of India but also ashrams, yoga centres and meditation courses. I met his state “representative”, Suresh, who I’ve mentioned before. He was the one who got me the job in the first place and he was now going to take care of me.

So Tuesday morning I was hot and bothered, loaded up to the max with my luggage and finally wanting somewhere to rest for a few days, before starting work on Friday. Suresh offered me accommodation in the school where we met, which was in the heart of the Cochin. He set up a bed for me in one of the classrooms. The kids were on holidays, so the school was closed and I was all by myself until Friday morning. It wasn’t a big school, very primitive, full of mosquitoes, very noisy, but I was grateful. The nights were fine; I wasn’t scared being alone in the building but instead I was amazed at where I had landed myself in the space of one week; last Tuesday I was in Hyderabad about to embark on a potential “yoga career”; this Tuesday I was in Cochin about to embark on a potential “teaching career”. It was so random! At nights I’d do my best to savour what I was experiencing and take in everything: I was legally sleeping in the classroom of a primary school in the south of India, which belonged to a guru and I was on my way to being the English teacher, in this amazing country. This was my dream. It was all happening for me. With many other things I was still trying to put into place that have happened so far since being here, I was trying to focus so much on NOT letting this randomness and magic almost, of what was going on, pass me by.

Besides this, for 3 nights, I watched movies on my laptop, ate awful food from eating places I’ll never return to, tried to gear myself up for the teaching, process the week that had gone by and try to close one chapter to start yet another (I’m actually not too sure what chapter is what, at the moment, or where one starts and the other end; they seem to have rolled into the each other!) But the stress of everything started to take hold of me; my immune system may have been weak during these days and so this was an opportunity for some unwanted bacteria or virus to make an entrance.

Thursday night, was my last night sleeping in the classroom. The following morning Suresh was going to be picking me up at 6am. He would take me to the school, 2 hours away from the city, in Kayamkulam, where I’d be teaching until the end of the May. BUT BUT BUT.. I woke up on Thursday night at 2am feeling sick. I started vomiting, was in agony, felt to also have the flu. I didn’t sleep afterwards. It was 30 degrees all night and I was freezing. I could hardly walk and was aching all over. What was going on! I had no clue. Maybe I’d eaten something wrong, or drank some bad water.. I didn’t know, all I knew was, I was dreading going to school and having to teach.

I had to leave Cochin though. Suresh came to the school, saw that I wasn’t well. At this point, 4 hours after this “thing” had gotten a hold of me, I was an emotional mess. I was crying, I could hardly walk, I could hardly drink water without wanting to be sick, let alone eat to get some strength back. I was a disaster. He said I could stay in Cochin, if I wanted. But I had to get out of this city. I was so “over it”! So we drove, I sat, I felt miserable, I couldn’t speak because it would make me feel sick, the volume in my voice was gone, the muscles in my legs were aching, my head was pounding and all I wanted to do was cry. I can hardly remember much of the 2 hour journey. I remember Suresh trying to make lots of conversation but he soon stopped, as he realized I just was not able. Thinking about giving classes made me feel even more physically and emotionally sick. I wasn’t able to concentrate on anything. I was stressed-out thinking about the bad first-impression I was going to be giving. I also looked horrendous and all I wanted was to sleep. But even that was something I didn’t know I’d be able to get or WHERE I’d be able to get it as I’d be staying somewhere new. This was not the right day for me to be moving and starting something new..

Monday, April 12, 2010

Is this the middle of my India?

It’s now Monday morning. Tomorrow I’m leaving Fort Cochin and going into the city again. I’m meeting the man who is organizing my job-placement. He’ll also arrange accommodation for me, from tomorrow onwards. That takes away a lot of the hassle because things will happen for me. For a few days, I won’t need to do much!

With the next step, I can sometimes be wary of putting too much hope into this job-placement. I’m even having doubts whether it will happen or not. I’m supposed to be starting the teaching position on Friday. But I’m not “holding my breath”. I’ll believe it only once I’ve met this man, who goes by the name of Suresh. I’ve met him before, he’s an elderly man, around 70 and the executive of a foundation called: The Art of Living. This foundation has many schools around Kerala, so he’s well-established and I trust him. I’m not going to worry about this being the right or wrong thing. I don’t want to have any expectations. All I know is that, when I was at the yoga classes, observing the trainers giving their classes, I wanted to be in classroom with kids. That’s all I could see myself doing. But, then again, I’ve had these strong feelings before, in regards to doing other things in life, and once they’ve materialized they’ve brought me other experiences than the visions I’d first been faced with. So I shouldn’t say too much I guess.

All I can say is that I know that I have to keep trying these things, and not get too involved in where they will lead or what they will reveal to me, not until the time comes. Just like the yoga story: I never expected it to go like this, and would never have wanted to come back to Kerala, had I not been in Hyderabad. 2 weeks ago Kerala felt like a step backwards. But 2 days ago, and today still, it feels like a step forward. So it’s good now, because the yoga story led me back here and forced me to take a job. Mainly because the desperation that suddenly hit in and the need that got overwhelming for me to have had at least one experience that would serve me in long run, before my time in India ends.

Will it be ending? I’m not sure. I’ve seriously considered “quitting while I’m ahead”. But as soon as that thought comes to mind, it also goes. I’ve been here 2.5 months now and it feels to be so much longer. Every stage has been amazing, because I've been living in the moment. It's the best place to be in life! Now I feel like I’m right in the middle of this chapter and I can’t help but think ahead to plan how long I can stay, or where to head to afterwards. It’s almost like I had to be faced with all that the past week has thrown at me, or all that I’ve welcomed into my life, to get me into a reflective mood and realize that I can’t continuously live in the moment. Even though I don’t want to think about the visa ending and I don’t want to plan everything so “far in advance”. But I have no choice if I want to keep on traveling. In regards to finances and jobs, I simply must. I need to stay independent and gain experience.

I’m not great with planning. I feel a sense of panic and pressure and spasms in my chest; I reject them, for some reason. So I’ve always made rash decisions and I would go with the flow. Now I’m simply facing the reality of life: plans DO need to be made in advance for things to keep going in the direction I so strongly feel I must be heading towards. That’s what it’s comes down to. My visa runs out in July, ouch that hurts so much, to know this! It's a long way off, but time flies. Setting plans into place, which are irreversible: Will that take away the magic of life? Will that mean the end of inspiration? Or am I, once again, being a drama-queen? Should I just “get-real” and keep my 2 feet on the ground? At times I must, but overall, I really don’t feel the need. For now, the next week is “planned”. I’ll say no more for now..

Bangalore - Fort Cochin

With each day that passed, since leaving the yoga house, my backpack on my back and my rucksack on my front, were with me 24 hours. It was all getting heavier and heavier, and the more days that passed, the more effort it took for me to be able to walk any distance longer than a few minutes, with my loaded-up back and front. How has it gotten so much heavier? It’s all I own, it’s my life, my world, my all, I know, so of course it’s only natural it’s more than 25 kilo’s. But it still makes me wonder… Just as well I was soon to reach somewhere offering some “back-relief”! A hard bed should do the trick. But before I have the pleasure of encountering such a bed, I still had one night on the bus to “happily” experience.

Saturday evening I took the overnight bus from Bangalore to Cochin. Another 14 hours. I had the worst seat on the bus, the backseat! The bumps were twice as bad, the swerves were more of an issue, but I was glad not to see the road and be forced to watch the manic style of driving. I also had to bring ALL OF MY LUGGAGE onto the bus, just like everyone else.. The things that were being transported was unreal: baskets of flowers and sacks of clothes filled up the aisle, as well as recycled paper and garbage even. I sat with a family of 3, who were also unlucky to get the worst seats in on the coach but they made the trip so much more of a pleasure. We chatted, they wanted English lessons throughout the journey and treated me to dinner when we had a pit-stop. I was wrecked though. It was a struggle to be sociable at that stage, which I actually hate to admit. I didn’t sleep that night either. I felt to be more in “danger of my life“, compared to the other bus journey. It was probably just my mind playing tricks on me.

Sunday morning the bus reached Cochin. Again, I dreaded the next step. The mission began of finding a place to stay for 2 nights. I had nothing booked but I had fair idea in which direction to head. After searching in different areas of the city, being showed the dirtiest places I’ve seen in my life where you wouldn’t even expect a dog to sleep and also being told at least 10 times that everything was fully booked, I started making my way out of the city towards the sea. I knew I”d be staying for 2 nights, so I felt I had to make the extra effort to find somewhere nice to stay. So I got a few taxis, haggled with the drivers, heaved myself onto buses and got weighed down by my luggage which I couldn’t put down at this stage, because I didn’t have the strength to pick it up again.

By 11am: I reached a place where I finally felt more at ease. I got myself to a place in Fort Cochi. This is a tourist destination just outside the city of Cochin, it’s by the sea and it’s gorgeous. I’m now in a homestay, relatively cheap with mildew on the walls, but I’ve got a shower and a bed. That’s all that matters for now, as well as 2 days and 2 nights of peace. I’ve been doing not a lot, since getting here, besides trying to avoid the young Indian men who see a Western girl alone, and would be inclined to take advantage. I’m keeping everyone at a distance. It’s hard though, especially when sometimes you just want a conversation with somebody or anybody who is willing to chat. The local girls, you don’t see. The local men have warped minds. And the tourists, I haven’t yet had the chance. It’s actually the first place in India I’ve been, where I’ve seen so many Western people. It was a little bit of shock, at first. Wouw: I’m not only seeing natives, but also travellers, just like me!! How nice!

Hyderabad - Bangalore

Thursday afternoon I left the house. I was free. I had no plans. In that moment I didn’t care that I had no clue of where I was staying that night. All I wanted was to get on my way. I realized that this was the first time for me to be out my own, without a detailed plan as to where I was going, since getting to this country. This was a different way to be in India. It would be a challenge, of this much I was aware. But I’d be fine, as long as I took each step at a time, and knew my general direction, I was certain the details would all fall into place.

Leaving Hyderabad (where the yoga house was) was a mission. But I managed; just by putting my trust in strangers, taking assistance from policemen, asking 100 times how to get to certain places and finding ways to set up where my next overnight stay would be. For Thursday night it was the bus where I’d be sleeping. I was happy to get a ticket at such short notice. I was at peace...

This was my first overnight bus journey in India by the way, and an experience not many travelers would recommend but definitely something I was happy to finally undergo. I met the kindest people and felt so at home – more so than I had at any stage during the yoga story. I laughed so much when taking-in the whole “process” of getting the journey underway; it was top-notch entertainment! We were waiting on the bus, it almost 2 hours late and the drivers still didn’t make any effort to speed things along; they were installing the television, cleaning the windows, getting fuel, having dinner, talking amongst themselves and even took their time to have a “body wash”!. I was loving every minute of what I was seeing. The journey to Bangalore took 14 hours. The manic style of driving was something that would usually make a passenger nervous, scared and fearful of their lives with every swerve the bus makes, every honk of the horn and slam on the breaks. But I let go of the nerves and enjoyed it as much as possible. I slept not so much. And when there’s no sleep there’s also no proper end to one day or start to the next: the days start rolling into each other and it always feels so strange.

At 8.30 we reached the city. I had no clue what I was doing. I suddenly dreaded the next step. I had a few options I was considering. All I knew was to get to the railway station, and see how soon I can get another ticket booked to keep making my way down south. I wanted it to be as soon as possible. But I was tired, I was sweating, I was hungry. Since my last yoga class, which was only 24 hours ago, I had been through so much and hadn’t had any time to get over it all. I was still running on the same “energy” which had left me, shortly after the class had finished. But life was evolving, it waits for nobody and I wouldn’t have been able to press pause, even if I tried. Or could I? Yes I could. By again, putting my trust in some locals, who met me when I got off the bus. They got me a taxi to a hotel near the station. I didn’t care of the cost at that point. I needed a shower and some sleep and some peace to keep up with things. I booked myself in for 1 night. The owner was an arrogant *** and I wasn’t really comfortable there, but I had a shower (which was a bucket of cold water..) and a bed. I then had the rest of the day (which was still on Friday) to sort out my ticket for the next leg of the journey which was from Bangalore to Cochin, and it had to be on Saturday night. It was another mission. In my exhaustion it would have been so easy to let everything I was surrounded by, get me down: the sleazy looks, the dirty looks, the amazed looks, the snide remarks, the sniggers behind my back, the wrong directions in which I was being pointed in, the heat, the traffic, the vastness of this unfamiliar big city. But I forced myself to be unaffected by this crazy place. This was not going to get the better of me! And it didn’t. It took me all afternoon to sort, and I actually did meet some really nice people in the process of booking something that usually would be such a small and easy step to take, anywhere else. But I wasn’t anywhere else. I was in India, and this is how things are. Simply accept things as they are and deal with them! And always Smile to lighten the load – and take to relax the muscles in the face, because when you frown you use 74 facial muscles and only 14 when you smile!!! That thought alone, put a smile on my dial.

I had the most relaxing night. I actually sat and watched the most television, for the first time in ages. It was so nice. The following morning, I had to check out by 9am. My bus wasn’t leaving until 6pm. So I had the whole day to fill. I wasn’t in the mood to go exploring. So I dumped my luggage at the cloakroom in the station, and hung out all day. I was just like the rest of the “waiters” at the station: I was hanging around with nothing better to do, just to avoid spending an unnecessary amount of money and so I was filling my time with watching and observing and of course, being watched and observed.

It was getting to be so tiring: knowing that every move I make, no matter where I go or what I’m doing doesn’t go unnoticed. (all travelers can relate to this I’m sure.. especially girls.) I have a coconut on the side of the street and there are at least 20 pairs of eyes focused on me. I walk into an eating joint and at least 30 pairs of eyes look. But I can’t meet all of their gazes, as much as I would want to; I want to because I’ve realized with the return of a stare, they soon stop but 30 pairs of eyes, it‘s too much. Then 20 comments regarding “the girl who just walked in alone”, are being whispered to their neighbor and they are either appalled at the sight of her or they are simply amused. To show I don’t care, I smile, especially to the women, and I tell myself that they don’t mean to be rude, it’s just how I’m perceiving it. This attitude takes away a lot the pressure I can sometimes feel, but it takes a lot of energy at the same time; which is something I didn’t have too much of.

Saturday was the waiting day. I met some interesting people who made me feel happy and grateful for where I was and what I was doing. There was the boy selling tea who was maybe 10 years old but had the presence of a 20 year old, then there was a man who claimed he was God and was searching everywhere to complete his mission. He helped me out though, which made one step of the journey a lot easier than it otherwise would have been. Then there was a jolly fellow who told me about his trip to Finland and then high-fived me after he felt how heavy my backpack was and realized I was actually able to lift it. It was so funny. I couldn't wait though to finally get on that bus, and out of Bangalore..

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Yoga talk - 3 - The story ends..

At 01.30pm on Thursday afternoon I made 2 calls regarding work. I had to know that I had something lined-up or some sort of plan of action before taking the plunge and breaking free from this house. I spoke with a certain person on the phone. The chances of him actually having a job for me, were so slim, but still I felt the urge to ring him. Amazingly I was offered a job teaching English, for 6 weeks, starting from next week! It all happened so fast. An hour later I had told Nandan I wanted to leave, he was totally fine and didn’t even want to know why I wasn’t staying! I was booking my ticket to leave asap and heading in the southerly direction; that’s where the teaching position will be (back in the state of Kerala, I’ll need to go to Cochin and from there I’ll be brought to the town where the school is.. 3 hours from Cochin). The other teachers who heard of my leaving, didn’t even say goodbye. One guy asked, with everybody just sitting around, if I wasn’t happy here, in a nice but sarcastic manner. I was going to start explaining myself to them all. And then I thought: No, **** the lot of you! I’m going to be honest and I said: “no, I’m not happy“. I probably insulted everybody by “dissing” their so-called fantastic and glamorous lifestyle. But I was only being myself by saying I wasn’t happy and that was probably the only time I actually DID feel happy! Whoohoo!! Life was looking better already!

Still Thursday afternoon. I was trying to book my ticket online. But it wasn’t working. So1 of the girls said I should just pack my bags, the driver would drop me on the main road and from there I can get a taxi to the station and hope to get an overnight bus to wherever. In a way I was shocked - even though it‘s what I wanted all along, as I wouldn‘t have to hang around longer than necessary.. freedom was calling me!.. But, coming from her, what I had done to deserve this?! Wasn’t I allowed to stay until the following morning, have one more yummy meal and a proper sleep before heading on my way to wherever? Apparently not. So I said fine. I had 15 min to pack my bags because the “driver” was waiting. This made me feel even more desperate to end this thing and I was even more certain of my decision. How rude she was to me! And then, she had the nerve to say, when I was leaving: “if you ever change your mind, let us know and you can come back, you‘ve got potential!!” Yeah right!!! I doubt you’ll see me back, sweet Barbie doll! Sorry to get smart.

A dream wasn’t so much shattered by realizing that artistic yoga won’t be the way for me to go. Instead I now realize even more what yoga means to me, and it’s not as a substitute for training at the gym. Definitely not. I probably discovered that I’m more passionate about it than I thought I was and I know that I’d love to be a teacher. But not in that environment. No way. I want to learn so much about the yoga, but through people who appreciate ALL it has to offer. And I want to meet those people. I want to then bring this to others, who aren’t in agony because the class is so intense and who aren’t hating every minute because they’re pushing their boundaries constantly and blaming the teacher (which would be me) for their pain. This is not what I want. I’m now so keen, more than before, but it just isn’t my time to be taking this direction of teaching.

A lot of issues came up over the past few days. All of my “demons”, they all came to the surface and I questioned nearly everything I felt to be true. But I don’t need to really, as I can trust myself even more so than before; within 4 hours of being there I knew something wasn’t wrong!! How cool is that! I didn’t need to put myself through 2 whole weeks of facing dilemma’s and queries and making the process even more painful. I’m free again, and that’s a big relief. I can go and be and do anything I like. I’m apart of the real world once again.

This whole episode feels to have lasted a lot longer than only 3 days. I thought I’d feel like a failure for having taken the decision to go in the first place and then to leave that scene so suddenly. But I don’t. I don’t care. All I care is about my own health, and there in that situation, something went very wrong, in regards to mine. Now it’s time for me to deal with it along with getting the next thing set into place, so I can keep my India real. My head has been all over the place, my body is weak and tired and my focus has temporarily gone. I’m trying so hard to get everything out of me, and I sometimes wonder if I’m not trying too much. India isn’t easy, at the best of times. Especially when I put so much pressure on myself to make things work in the right way. It doesn’t help that it’s more than just one thing I’m trying to materialize either. I’m challenging myself, and this is what I wanted. But it’s only temporarily. Things are slowly coming good again. All I want now, is a nice conversation with somebody, anybody. I haven’t had a flowing conversation with anybody since Monday. It’s now Saturday. I wonder who the next person will be. I’m looking forward to it. How nice it will be.

For now, enough about this week. How I got on once I left the yoga house, is still unfolding. Catch you soon!

Yoga talk - 2

I couldn’t chat to anybody, no matter how much effort I put into getting someone to open up to me. I would look in the mirror and as the hours passed on day 1 (Wednesday), the colour was draining from my face. I was pale, tired and unhappy. I couldn’t smile, I had a constant frown, hardly recognized myself anymore and I worried constantly about how I was going to get myself out of this situation. I really started to exaggerate my feelings in my mind: life suddenly had lost all of its magic. Please, give me nothing, only myself and I’d be happier. I was then starting to fear reading books, or going for a nap, because that would mean I’d have escaped to a much nicer world and then would have to re-enter this world, of which I really didn’t want to be apart of. So, all I did, was write and write and write in my journal. I didn’t speak properly with anybody. In total, I went to 5 classes at the studio, and felt sick in my chest, my back, my head constantly, as soon as I’d come out of an amazing yoga pose. After class I’d count down the hours till we were being collected to go back to the house, where I knew I had an amazing meal waiting for me. This was all that was going on by Wednesday evening (I hadn’t even been there 2 days!). All I enjoyed was eating and sleeping! And the only people I felt drawn to and wanted to make a conversation with, were the2 maids. Such genuine and friendly girls, who couldn’t speak English but were so sweet.

I went to bed on Wednesday night and knew I had to act. Niamh, do something to change this. It’s pointless being here. It’s a waste of everyone’s time. I was wanting, initially, to wait a week or 2 and give it a proper go. But I was concerned that I’d easily get accustomed to their way of being, and I’d forget all that I value, by being in an environment like this one. Also, the longer it takes me for me to act, the harder it gets to break free and that I’d end up feeling I owed them my time and would need to work for them to repay them for the training (and the amazing food!). So my instinct was telling me to do it soon. And, as always, when I act, things happen so fast. And they did. I woke up on Thursday morning. I had to take the 7am class. So I went. By this stage my body was giving in. It really was struggling so much. There was so much going on physically and emotionally. I don’t know if it was a combination of the training and the situation I was that made me feel so low. But my energy was gone. I looked in the mirror again after the class and I was the colour of milk. I recognized myself even less than the day previous and I looked ill. I looked like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders and would have happily collapsed.

What was my plan of action going to be? I was in Hyderabad. What did I want to do? Where did I want to go? I explored every option, on Thursday morning after class. I thought about going to another country, I thought about going back to Chennai, I thought about just travelling and giving myself a break from trying to get some sort of settled lifestyle in India.. Because it just didn’t seem to be working. I considered going back home and looking for English teaching somewhere else. I felt I had reached breaking point on Thursday. I wanted to confide in someone. I needed to speak and to vent all my emotions to a pair of ears, instead of the pages in my precious journal. But there was nobody. So I knew I had to do this by myself. I had gotten myself into this “pickle” and now it was up to me, without any advice or with as little help from others as possible, to get myself out of it. I didn’t want to leave India. Not yet. I needed to give it some more effort. I had resources and I’d make a change for the better! I was going to use all I had gotten to know, so far, since first arriving here 10 weeks ago. And I did.

Yoga talk - 1

I cannot suddenly feel like a fool. Things went sour. Only 6 days have passed since leaving Chennai and I’ve been through the “wringer”. Everything seems so surreal when I look back on it now. The whole week. It all happened, I’ve changed a little bit and realized so much.

I got to the “yoga house” on Tuesday morning. I felt amazing. I settled in, got the feel for the place and I was excited. In the afternoon though, things took a drastic change. Before meeting the people, everything was amazing. But then, one by one, I started to meet the yoga teachers, and something wasn’t quite right. Something was out of place. From all the 10 teachers in the house I got a bad vibe, including from Nandan, who I‘d already met the previous week and who was eager to give me chance to “fulfill my dream”. Suddenly he wasn‘t how I remembered him to be. It escalated throughout the rest of the day. By the time I was going to take my first class that same afternoon (just as a “participant” to begin with) I knew this may not be what I’d hoped.

I took the class and felt fantastic for the first part. The style is called artistic yoga. It’s different from the slow-paced yoga. This type is intense and has a lot of “cardio” training combined with traditional hatha yoga. I took to it well. But I had to push myself so much, when it came to the cardio aspect, to the point where I nearly was sick, wanted to faint and the emptiness I felt coming from my back seeping through my entire body, was unreal. I then felt emotional, depressed, out of place, alien. I wanted to run and hide!! It was the strangest surroundings and the teachers were rejecting me. I felt like I was back in high school; needing to act in a certain way, just to be accepted! What’s with these people!!!

After getting over the shock of all these feelings this situation was revealing to me, I went to bed and actually felt lonely. Hang on, I’m never lonely!! Even when I’d sit by myself in a hostel room and wouldn’t speak with anybody for days; I never feel LONELY! There’s a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely. I love being alone and it’s something I’d rather be than be with these people. I was delighted to sleep. I was able to close my eyes and get away from this strange world I had so eagerly ran towards and wanted to embrace. Going to sleep I tried to calm myself, because of course the panic would arise, in thinking what I may have given-up or may have gotten myself into. I told myself I was over-tired and tomorrow, my first full day, all would be better (this was still only Tuesday night by the way; I hadn’t even been there a full day at this stage!).

I woke up the next morning and I didn’t want to be apart of this world. I was miserable. I felt I had woken up and was living a nightmare!! It was so intense, the way I was rejecting this whole environment. I went to class, I gave my all, I felt brilliant throughout the yoga but afterwards, again, I was empty, in every sense of the word.

I was wondering what was so “wrong” about this whole situation. Wasn’t this my dream? Yes, it was! Wasn’t this what I had longed for? Yes it was! So why was I miserable? I figured it out pretty soon. I wrote away my days, to clarity and for strength, in between going to the yoga studio and feeling awful. I discovered that it’s the people and their approach towards the yoga. The classes they give, are focused on losing weight, coaching, pushing physical boundaries and keeping fit. The teachers have given themselves the label of being a yoga teacher and therefore, it’s obvious they feel superior to others. They aren’t though, they are just fitness instructors; all gorgeous, toned, fit, all with big “ego’s” and aren’t the least bit interested in anybody else, other than themselves. They class themselves to be of a higher “something”, and to have this amazing lifestyle and to always feel and spread the happiness they gain from being the yoga teacher. This is so far from the truth! Just like they claim to all live “happily” together as 1 big family in the yoga house – again something that couldn’t be further from the truth! I’ve felt more love being spread between strangers on bus-journeys than I felt in that house.

I was starting to loose sight of everything I felt yoga stands for. To me, of course it’s for flexibility and physical health, but it’s also to lead to mental and emotional health and a balance in life, from which a person can benefit from, in everything they do. If yoga is your life (which is what I wanted it be to be for me) then the sensations and energy it releases is reflected in everything you do. But I was getting absolutely nothing of this vibe. It was quite the opposite. These teachers like to THINK their lives are driven by yoga but it’s driven more by a cooperative mind which is focused on money, image and possessions. They also have no freedom to do as they please in life, when it comes to socializing, relationships or just generally being apart of this world. This is the commitment they must make.

Suffocate me now!!! I felt to be imprisoned and controlled. As well I felt I was losing contact with the world. I looked ahead at how it could be for me, if I were to continue this training. I’d end up with no freedom, no travels, no connection with other people or with this country. It was already happening: for the entire time I had actually forgotten I was in this amazing country. I could have been anywhere in the world. This was not what I wanted!

I’ll just give you a break.. the analyzing continues..

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chennai - Hyderabad 06-04

The journey from Chennai to Hyderabad was probably the best I’ve had so far.

It was a 13 hour train ride, I left the station at 04.45pm and arrived at 06.30am this morning. I was so happy yesterday and I sat with an inner smile the whole way. I wasn’t counting down the hours till arriving. I was reading a book most of the way, had some yummy dinner, watched the sunset and felt such a relief to be out of the bustling city - the fact that I was on my way to another city, didn’t really come to mind. I then thought this country to be even more beautiful than I already felt it to be. Even I was witnessing the country life. The harshness of it rushed past the windows. There were people living in slums, living in shacks, living in sheds and working till sundown in the 40degree heat. I’ve seen worse “homes” in the city, where 1000s don’t even have a roof to call home, instead it’s piece of pavement just to “store” their possessions and to lay their frails bodies to rest preferably 24hours a day as they don‘t have the energy or nutrition to be able to do anything else. But to see it outside the city was different somehow. It probably just made me realize that the poverty really is everywhere and that living in slums, be it in the city or the country, can make even some people out as being the “lucky ones”. Country poverty could seem like a richness to the city poverty. What a contrast.

This was rushing past the window and still I was smiling. Regardless of these cords being struck within me, India is still beautiful and inspiring. Be it because of the gorgeous mountains I could see with the orange sky in the background, or the people of this land who were working so hard and for whom I have utmost respect due to their strength and ability to be happy, by just merely surviving. Both reasons filled me with awe.

I was in and out of my book, which is the “biography of a yogi” (how very appropriate for me be reading this..!!), which is set in India. I felt so lucky to be reading it and to be in the very same country as to where the author had his roots. The man sitting across from me didn’t even make me feel paranoid, uneasy or annoyed by the stares he gave me for 4 hours straight. Every move I made, he gave me a dirty look. Every mouthful of water, caught his attention. Every page I turned, he gave me the evil eye. I gave him some in return and to “apologize” for my lack of self-restraint I then was happy to give him my lower-bed and I took his upper-bed (because he had a knee problem, for what I could make out). Actually I just told a little white lie. Because his stares did occasionally annoy me and my sense of “not caring what others do, say, think around me” was being put to the test. But I think I coped well. I know many others who would have been inclined to ask him “what’s your problem, DUDE?”..in the most sarcastic or obnoxious way possible. I was tempted, but chose to let it pass me by.

I had the best sleep ever. It was so soothing to listen to the engine, to the tracks, to the wind. I was sleeping and journeying. I was moving to another place, not only in space and time, but also I was moving in my general direction in life. I felt so calm, so happy and didn’t want the train journey to end. And suddenly it did. I arrived at Hyderabad and felt pretty fresh. The driver was there waiting for me. He brought me to the house where the yoga teachers live, it‘s where I‘ll also be staying for 2 weeks or so. I got the first impressions of the city and it’s only natural that I’ll compare it to Chennai.. Hyderabad is smaller, it’s cleaner, it’s greener and the pace of life seems slower. It’s got a really nice feel to it. Maybe it was just the hour of the morning that made the city seem to be of this kind. The driver (sounds so snobbish almost, talking about “the driver”. But I don’t know what other name to give him..) is from the city so of course he was going to talk about this place being a beautiful one. Either way, it doesn’t matter. First impressions were very good!!

I’m in the house now, I have my own space again. It’s really nice. There’s around 10 others staying here too. It feels pretty peaceful. I’ve met a few others and they are all lovely. This evening I’ll be starting the training. Can’t quite believe it. I don’t know how this is going to go. I’m not going to stress it too much. I’ll see what happens, I’ll go with the flow and I’ll be sure to let you know!

Chennai Review

By reading my pervious post, you may realize that I didn’t leave Chennai without thought or feelings. I left knowing what I wanted, where I was heading. It may have been rash, but that’s how it was meant to go.

I guess now though, the moment of me being reflective has come, and that’s my reason for this writing. I’m just closing Chennai’s chapter, for now, and starting another. I can never say when I’ll return again. I’m almost wary of saying that I definitely will. I can’t think that far ahead right now. But looking back, I can. And it was a whirlwind of a 5 -week “journey”. The amount of interviews I attended in such a “short” space of time, is unreal. Never in all my life have I ever seen myself sat at so many desks listening to principles and businessmen talk about the ease involved in taking the teaching position, with the so-called “great salary“. I look back and it’ like I replay a movie of myself and Jayanthi, traipsing around the city going from one part to next, using hundreds of autoriskshaws, tens of buses and drinking chai to get us through and keep us sane. It looks like something amazing, as I think back. We laughed, we despaired, we spoke, we had high hopes and visions of what the certain positions could bring us, we “chanced our arms” and kept everything flowing. We always had some sort of back-up or reserve..

I’ve been so grateful though for every opportunity and never for a minute have I wondered what I could have been doing or what job I may have gotten, had I NOT moved to Chennai. I know there’s a reason for me to have come. It was to experience life within an Indian family, life within one of India’s metro’s, life from day-to-day, life of the “jobseeker” in India. It was also for me to seriously consider and be faced with so many teaching jobs, that I was forced to question what it is I really want at this moment in time. And I did. I can never know for sure, but for now, I’ve found the answer; hence the decision I made to come to Hyderabad; hence me sitting here in this new place surrounded by new people with an approach to life that will hopefully inspire me in many different ways.

Chennai gave me what I needed. I wouldn’t be sitting here otherwise. Getting to meet Nandan last week (right place, right time!) as well as all the jobs not being the right ones, was the perfect combo to set me on my way. I feel to have come so far in other aspects too, within the space of 5 weeks. I feel like I’ve gotten so much stronger and more confident. I know what I want and I know how to get it - to a certain degree. Also when it comes to getting things done and to simply being apart of this country, as the person I am or as the person the natives here see me as: which is the “foreign girl travelling alone”, the “walking wallet” or the “white girl who can be taken advantage of, in whatever way anybody feels the desire to”. I’ve only been here for such a short time and still have so much to learn and to adapt to. But I won’t let people walk “all over me”. Or maybe not as much as I used to. I can stand up for myself, tell the rude people of the world what I think and be harsh if I need to! The term: “toughen-up princess!” comes to mind, which is something many country folk of Australia would say. It could be happening! I just needed India to give me a helping hand!

So thank you Jayanthi, thank you Chennai, thank you India. It‘s been amazing so far!
Enough said for now. I’ll be quiet and let you get on with whatever it was you were doing!

The rashness of it all..

20 hours after leaving Chennai. I didn’t really get the chance to properly say “goodbye”. Well, I did, but now that I’m gone it feels almost like I left too suddenly. Yes, it all happened fast: the yoga position being offered to me, the decision to take it and the choice to get it started right away. But did I leave too soon? Many would think I did. Especially people at home. My mam for instance, who I rang yesterday afternoon (Monday), half an hour before I was due to leave the beautiful home I was staying at for the past 5 weeks. Of course it sounded rash and like a drastic change in direction. Because nobody knew that this yoga position was what I was wanting all along. It seems to have come out of the blue I suppose. And in many ways it did to me too, as I hadn’t expected this chance.

Yesterday, ringing home, I had to tell Mam “in person” (by phone is as “in person” as it gets whilst being away from home). It felt to be such a big step I was taking and I didn’t want her to read it on my blog. Shock of the sudden change but encouragement to take this opportunity, were her reactions. She was nervous for me as I told her I was leaving in half an hour. Was I nervous? No. Was I excited? yes. But what else was I? Sad to leave Chennai? I’m not too sure. I didn’t feel that I was leaving, for some strange reason. I didn’t feel to be too reflective - which was very surprising to me, seeing as though it’s usually what I am when I close one chapter to start another.

I said goodbye to Jayanthi and her parents at the house. It was me, once again, out on my own. I felt so free, I felt so secure. But of course it did feel strange to leave a place I had gotten so comfortable. I knew I was going to miss certain things; the easiness of being there, the talks, the room upstairs with the rooftop, the walks on the beach each morning, the city-outings.. Of course I’d miss it all. But as they say, there’s a time for coming and a time for leaving. My time for leaving happened so rashly, it almost passed me by!! That’s the reason why I can question it. But I didn’t feel bad. It felt good for it to be just me again.

I wondered though, had I done wrong by Jayanthi and her family by coming into their lives, letting them get used to me being there and giving them the “burden” of my unknown plans regarding my travels, my life and my situation, to then suddenly pack my bags and leave? Was this unfair of me? Should I not have burdened them at all? Would I ever be able to repay them for all the help they gave me? Had I just taken all I could and not given anything in return? And by my leaving so suddenly, was I taking even more from them than I already had taken, throughout my stay with them? Should I now feel bad, for letting myself get into that situation in the first place? But if so, then a person, or I, would never be able to get close to anybody whilst travelling, for fear of taking too much throughout the time we spend together and then only making their lives more complicated by their need to adjust to my being there and then to my not being there, once again.

This is a topic or an issue even, that has gone through my mind a few times. And I had already made peace with what they had assured me of: you weren’t in the way, you weren’t any trouble to have and everyone enjoyed you being here. So all parties involved were happy and benefiting in some way or another.

So what more can I say on the subject? I can’t feel bad. I travel, I move, I sometimes stick too long and suddenly things happen and I rashly move. This has happened many times before. I never want to hurt anybody in the process though. Sometimes it can happen and I can seen as the “bad-guy”. But if someone knows me, and knows what makes me tick and how I’ve moved myself through my life over the years, then they know how I “operate” and so with that awareness shouldn’t they not blame me for having the sudden urge to leave? I’m actually referring to other situations that I’ve found myself in over the years and so it’s not regarding the Chennai situation. I can let it rest, because I know that I haven’t hurt anybody and so there is no blame and I am free and know this is what I do..

Monday, April 5, 2010

Reward of patience - 2

What is this position I’m taking? Well, it’s something I’ve been dreaming of doing for 3 years. It’s something I had envisioned myself to do in India. But something I thought wasn’t going to happen to me, for lack of experience and money. I’m getting the chance though, regardless of not having either. I’m getting the opportunity to train to be a yoga teacher! I can’t quite believe it. Even now, after it‘s confirmed, I’m still very sceptical about “broadcasting“ it. I kept it quiet because I was convinced I would jinx it otherwise. Maybe because it’s something I wanted for so long and now that I might have it, I don’t want to do anything to jeopardise it. The strangeness I felt on Thursday and Friday, as the plans were falling into place, explains how much I wanted this. So surreal it is.

This strangeness: I wasn’t able to feel excitement for some reason, I was blown away and doubting absolutely everything. Since then I’ve been sorting out a few things: my head and my emotions. O yeah and transport! Because taking this position means relocation. I’ll be going to Hyderabad, which is 13 hours northwest of Chennai, inland. It’s still in South India though - how amazingly big this country is!

So, what happens from here? I’ll be going to Hyderabad tonight, by train. When Nandan said I could start whenever I like, I wanted to get this started as soon as possible. No time to waste, right!! So tomorrow morning I’ll be picked-up at the station, brought to the accommodation, which is provided by the company. I’ll be staying with a group of yoga trainers. The training I’ll be taking, will be “on the job”. So it’s different from any other yoga teacher training programme, which usually has a group of at least 10 students, who pay a bomb to do the course and when attaining the certificate after 4 weeks of study they still don’t have a guaranteed job. But, what I’m doing is different and that‘s why lack of finances and experience isn‘t an issue (for now). The first 2 weeks, will just be a trial. It will be to see if I take to it, if it feels good and if they also are happy with me.

I can’t go into too much detail about what could happen after 2 or 3 weeks of being there. I don’t want to think too far ahead. It’s too much right now. So much has happened, so suddenly, that thinking of where this could lead, is too big. So, as Nandan said, we’ll take it one step at a time, give you training for a few weeks and see from there what we both want. Wouw..

At the moment I’m only thinking of this to be a chance for me to experience yoga from a different perspective. The following weeks may confirm what I felt in my heart I wanted so badly: which was to learn so much more about yoga and share it with others. Or it could make me realize that yoga is to remain a hobby and not a way for me to work and travel this amazing world and I’ll then be happy knowing that teaching English instead will be what I’m meant to do.

I’m not sure of many things right now, but of what I’m AM sure of, is that this is what I need to do. Whatever it will reveal, is what I need to see. I’m feeling excited, eager, determined and curious but also calm and certain that as soon as I step into this new world, I’ll know if it’s for me or not. It might shatter my dream. Or, come to think of it, my dream be shattered because it’s already amazing how this has come to me.

Can I let you in on a secret though? On Thursday night I woke up from a dream I was having: I was India, in a home asleep in a comfortable bed and was on the verge of training to be a yoga teacher. And then I woke up, and guess what: the dream continued. Because I was living it. I am living it, and will continue to, no matter what the next weeks reveal. I’m ready! I’m prepared but I’m expecting nothing and everything will be a bonus..

Reward of patience - 1

The date arrived. April 1st. My deadline. This I had set, 2 weeks ago, and it was the date by which I wanted and needed more clarity regarding work opportunities in India, mainly for financial reasons. I told myself if I don’t have any job prospects by April 1st then I’d have to start looking abroad, for a teaching job.

Sure enough, the date arrived, so suddenly, With that, the pressure wasn’t increasing. I chose to switch-off to the frustration. I still had options, either way. And last Thursday, which was April 1st (!!!) what I had been hoping for, actually was confirmed.

For weeks I’ve had this particular dream I was trying to make a reality. I never mentioned it to anybody, other than Jayanthi. I was trying and hoping to make this happen, this one-off chance that I wanted so badly. It’s something that doesn’t come along everyday and so I never expected it to actually materialize.

I heard about the position this company offers and the potential it has, from Doris during the Tesol-course, 5 or 6 weeks ago. I looked into it, I sent my resume, I made numerous phone-calls, but all my efforts went unnoticed. I persisted though. It was more for my peace of mind. I wanted to be certain that this particular company either did or didn’t have an opening for me at this point in time, before taking on any other English teaching position. 2 weeks ago, things started to happen, ever so slowly. My calls were returned, I met up with another employee, but still there was uncertainty of a job-prospect being opened-up to me. So I was keeping my ear to the ground for other teaching jobs and not saying a word to anybody else. I persisted, I waited patiently to hear if anything would come my way.

On the 1st of April I met the man in question! He goes by the name of Nandan. I couldn’t believe my luck, He had actually contacted me and was randomly coming to Chennai and wanted to meet me! Yes! So on Thursday we met, we had lunch, we chatted, he talked “business” and after we hung out very casually, he asked me if I’d decided what I wanted. The position was mine, I could take a trial for 2 or 3 weeks and start whenever I wanted! This was way too easy! This was all too good to be true.. There had to be something fishy going on here. But there wasn’t. I was just the luckiest person ever. Because what I had so patiently waited for, but so eagerly had pursued, was being presented to me on a silver platter. It was mine for the taking. I was so shocked and overwhelmed so suddenly that I couldn’t imagine taking any other direction in my life right now, other than this. I had forgotten about all the other options. This was my chance!


Friday, April 2, 2010

A search for... concluded

I am so lucky. I now know I’m in the position to experience the best of both worlds. Due to my time in Ireland, I found my inner world and therefore I don’t need to use the physical world as an aid to find, to dig deep and discover what my truths, fears, strengths, passions and desires are, like the majority of travelers do, especially here in India. I can safely say that I didn’t choose India to “find myself”. I’m not searching for my soul. Instead I’ve realized that my travels are to search for where and how I can put into the world all that I’ve discovered through the “journey of the soul” which I embarked on, in every sense EXCEPT for moving myself physically around the globe, while I stayed so safely, so desperately, so intensely and so strongly in my warm bed surrounded by my beautiful family, during my months in Ireland. And this is where I can see that I am a step further on this journey or in this life, should I say.

It puts me in a position to experience even more amazement and growth from the journeys I make, as my focus is so clear. It reveals so many reasons, as to why things have been happening the way they have been, since I’ve arrived in India. It tells me why I’m waiting so patiently for a job to come my way and it tells me why I’m turning down so many opportunities: in my heart I know what I want and I know my intentions so I’m not settling for positions that will only send me in the direction I really don’t want to go. It tells me why I feel so comfortable being where I am whilst doing what I’m doing: comfort comes from NOT having a drive of desperation or an urge to push myself from within, which I used to always have and so I don’t force myself to face extreme situations in this physical world because I’m doing that in other aspects of life, which is far more fulfilling. I’ve realized that, yes, I’m searching for something, somewhere, that will give me the opportunity to put all that I know in my heart to be true, out into the physical world. How can I touch peoples lives? How can I make a difference? How can I be an inspiration? How can I keep living my dream for as long as I wish? This is what my search is now about. I’ve got my priorities in order and have to trust that it will work out.

Having said this, the search for the self is never complete - not as long as we live and breathe and take part in this wonderful life. So the journey, the travel, the learning, will always take place in both of my worlds. This is something else I’ve realized. And it’s also why, each day, I’m finding the balance between the 2 worlds. I write my heart out in my journal where the revelations are endless and where I learn lessons nobody would ever be able to teach or preach me, only myself. I take everything I learn each morning and can still feel that the physical world will support my dreams, my intentions all through knowing myself and having had that amazing “head start” before leaving Ireland, almost a year ago. How amazing to experience this all so clearly. The destination I will never ever reach. I don’t want to reach the destination, because that means everything ends. Instead it’s the direction I’m aiming for. The one I choose at this moment in time, is supporting my search. And just like the journey being never-ending, the search will also be never-ending.

Whatever it is we find in life will only lead us to the next step that is meant to be taken. Heading in a particular direction, without even thinking of ever feeling our mission in life is complete.. Because it never is.. How exciting.

A search for...

People often say they travel to “find themselves” or to embark on journeys around this earth so they are faced also with a “soul journey“. People who have been used to the conditioning society has almost burdened them with, can feel that the only way to ever find out what else life has in store, is by hitting the open road. Through the physical world they need to discover as much of their own emotional or inner world, as possible.

I’ve met people who talk about their journey, about their search. I’ve spoken with people who are choosing to search for their hidden purpose in life by ignoring the typical tourist trails and heading to extreme destinations. To put yourself out into the world of the unknown, this physical world that we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch, is to challenge every belief you ever owned, every aspect in life you valued and every question you once thought you had found the concrete evidence to its truth and therefore you thought the answer was set in stone. You are faced with your biggest fears and doubts as you travel, while everyone else, who lives according to what society has led them to believe is truth, judges you, pressurizes you and has expectations from you. And this is where their soul search begins, because they are alone and facing so many different aspects in life, all brought on and stimulated by this physical and new and amazing place on earth they have chosen, all with the intention of “finding themselves”. The search goes within and they find their inner strength and their truth and even their purpose. They find a different approach to life and beliefs and values can change. One is, as they so very commonly putting it: “travelling to find themselves”.

I’ve been asking myself this question, on and off, since arriving in India: Am I also “travelling to find myself?”, Am I on journey to search for my soul?”. If I’m not searching for my soul, then what AM I searching for?

It only started to dawn on me yesterday as I sat and typed an email to a friend I met in Kerala. I didn’t really have a connection with him, but we somehow stayed in touch and our emails are suddenly taking the direction the soul-searching journey and things came to light yesterday as I typed only a few lines.

So what am I searching for? Is it my soul? Is it my inner world? But, haven’t I already found that special part of me? I realized that I don’t need the physical world, no matter how beautiful or fearful it can be, to challenge me in order for me to find my inner strength. I already know my inner strength. I’ve already been challenged to the max, when it comes to digging deep, facing fears, finding my truth and living accordingly. I was digging deep, throughout my months in Ireland. It was the lack of the physical world which made it all the more intense and it shows me now that we don’t always need a certain place on earth to support us in our search for our hidden self. It depends on the challenges you are faced with or choose to face, in life. People who choose to journey to the ends of the earth and to challenge themselves with the result of becoming more self-aware, haven’t had other challenges in life that could have presented them with the same “results” and that’s where the desire to “search for the soul in all every corner of the earth” has can come from.

... to be concluded